For a little land-locked country, Laos sure has some good grub. It's not as bold or fiery as Thai food but offers more spice and adventurousness than Vietnamese or Cambodian food does. Along the western border of Laos, the Isan culinary map overlaps with Thailand but in Laos, preparations of laab (minced pork salad) and tam mak hoong (som tam/papaya salad), contain far less spice and are friendlier to the traveler with a more delicate palate.
Generally, traditional Laotian foods are fresh, lightly cooked and heavily herbed. There's an abundance of stews, steamed or barbecued fish and meat, spicy aromatic dips and noodle soups, and most, if not all, dishes come with a side of raw greens and kaow niaow (sticky rice). In the home, multiple dishes are served up on a ka toke, a circular rattan platter designed for sitting around and sharing, though as a traveler, your experience will likely be more restaurant and street-stall oriented.
Here are some Laos dishes most deserving of attention, easily identifiable, and available without having to gate-crash any local family's dinner time.